Wednesday, May 23, 2018

What is the common denominator of the top three Volvo Ocean Race boats?

J/24 World Champion, Volvo Ocean Race leader- Charlie Enright(Newport, RI)-  All have championship J/Sailors on their teams- in key roles.

MAPFRE- Xabi (skipper) and his brother Iker Fernandez sailed J/80s for years in Spain and sharpened their offshore keelboat skills in perhaps the world’s toughest one-design fleet in Spain- producers of SEVEN J/80 World Champions. Another Spanish sailor with extensive J/80 experience in Barcelona is Juan Vilar, their famous navigator (a multi-America’s Cup winner).  Where “giving an inch, means taking a mile” is the sword you live and die by in one-design events, it’s no surprise they dug deep to go from 5th to 1st on the Itajai, Brazil to Newport, RI leg and lead the standings overall.

Andrew CapeBRUNEL- Bouwe Bekking (skipper) and Andrew Cape (navigator) are no strangers to racing at the top of the game, both one-design and offshore.  Bouwe cut his teeth early in life racing J/24s as well as J/109s later with friends offshore in the Netherlands.  “Capey” sailed numerous J/Boats over times, including sailing with Stu Johnstone on his J/44 J-HAWK in the Island Double Race hosted by the Royal Southampton YC- which they won together and awarded the coveted blue & white towel! In addition, they have Rome Kirby aboard; he and his father Jerry Kirby have sailed on many J’s over time in both local J/24 racing and PHRF handicap racing offshore. If that wasn’t enough one-design experience and toughness, one of America’s top women’s match racers, sailing coach and has raced extensively on J/22s and J/80s is none other than Wisconsin’s Sally Barkow.

VESTAS- Charlie Enright (skipper) and Mark Towill (captain) have grown up around J’s their entire lives.  Charlie was a J/24 World Champion and both have sailed with the Commodore of Bristol YC and others on J/24s, J/109s and the new J/121 offshore speedster all over Narragansett Bay- no wonder they made huge gains in the last five miles of the race from Itajai to Newport- cannot get much better “local knowledge” than those two!

Dong Feng racing teamDONG FENG- Charles Caudrelier (skipper) grew up in France and has extensive experience sailing the incredibly hot and competitive J/80 class in France.  Like Xabi on MAPRE, the J/80 one-design experience in Europe taught them the value of extracting every ounce of performance from their boats, never settling for second best.  In fact, when “testing” Chinese candidates for crew in China, Charles used J/80s to determine the best sailors and used them to practice hard to “sensitize” the sailors to small changes in tune/trim for superior performance.

Needless to say, it is not surprising that top three crews in the Volvo Ocean Race have extensive J/Boats experience on their resumes.  If you want to learn how to get to the top of the sailboat racing game, hop into any one of the world’s most popular one-design offshore keelboat classes- J/22, J/24, J/70, J/80, J/88, J/105, J/109, J/111 (and soon- the new J/121 offshore speedster!).

Read the fascinating analysis of how these champions tackled the final part of the Itajai-Newport leg here.